Multnomah County's interim sheriff, Dan Staton, is one big endorsement and $20,000 closer to winning the May primary election.
But his two opponents are crying foul after fliers stating Staton's qualifications were tacked up recently in county buildings.
The 440-member Multnomah County Corrections Deputies Union announced this month it's endorsing Staton, backing him with a Jan. 12 donation of $20,000.
With jails taking up 70 percent of the sheriff's budget, the corrections union is viewed as the key endorsement in the race. The union's announcement prompted former corrections Capt. Bruce McCain to drop out of the race.
Detective Todd Shanks, head of the law enforcement deputies' union, says his union of about 90 members also is likely to endorse Staton.
If Staton's election seems preordained without a runoff in November, deputies from both unions hope it will return some stability to the sheriff's office after two rocky years. First came former Sheriff Bernie Giusto's 2008 resignation in the face of a state ethics investigation. His replacement, Bob Skipper, was forced to step down in November after twice failing a test to gain his state police certification.
The county board in October appointed Staton as the interim until the May election, where Staton and former Undersheriff Tom Slyter are the only candidates so far competing in a separate race to fill the rest of Giusto's term through 2010. Slyter and corrections Sgt. Muhammad Ra'oof, who got 21 percent when he ran in 2008, are Staton's only remaining rivals in the May primary for a full four-year term starting in 2011.
Both Slyter and Ra'oof say they're troubled by the posting in county buildings of fliers featuring Staton's picture, résumé and awards. State elections law forbids public employees from campaigning using public resources.
In mid-January, Ra'oof found a three-page flier tacked to a wall in the Multnomah County Detention Center. The third page listed Staton's "summary of qualifications for sheriff of Multnomah County," including 20 years in the sheriff's office and prior time in the Air Force. Another copy was posted in the sheriff's office at county headquarters.
"I personally wouldn't put anything about why I want to be sheriff up at the worksite," says Ra'oof. "It's a worksite, and we're government workers."
Carol Wessinger, Staton's campaign manager, says she's not sure who posted the fliers, but it was not Staton or anyone else in the campaign. After WW asked questions, Staton ordered the fliers removed.
"It's totally inappropriate," Wessinger says. "This is not something he knew anything about or had anything to do with, so it was a surprise to us."
Wessinger says Staton made the fliers to introduce himself during a visit in January with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 88.
"It's inappropriate," Slyter says of posting the fliers in county buildings. "It's a touchy situation, and it's a hard thing for a campaign to completely control."
The Staton campaign has $22,678 cash on hand. Ra'oof has declared no money so far, and Slyter has $1,560.